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Tuesday, August 09, 2022

On the most polarizing scientific issues like climate change, more knowledge does not necessarily lead to more agreement. Or so said science communication theorist and Yale law professor Dan Kahan when he gave the first presentation Wednesday for the 2013-2014 Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere Speaker Series, “‘Civil’ Society?”

Kahan spoke to students, professors and administrators Wednesday evening in the Smathers Library.

Kahan discussed his cultural cognition thesis, which claims people will align some of their scientific beliefs with the ones that are popular in the groups they want to belong to, regardless of how much science they know.

“People use their critical reasoning abilities in ways that make them fit into their group,” he said.

The speaker series is designed as a dialogue between science and the humanities that can lead to better understanding of how people subjectively interpret objective information, said Sean Adams, acting director of the center.

Rachel Walters, a 30-year-old postdoctoral geological sciences student, was one of about 60 people in the audience.

“It’s important to try to start fixing the disparity between what the public believes and what science says, especially in controversial issues like climate change,” she said.

The next installment in the seven-month speaker series is on Oct. 15.

A version of this story ran on page 4 on 9/12/2013 under the headline "Yale prof talks beliefs at UF"

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